"May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

The rains fall soft upon your fields,

and until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand."

— Traditional Gaelic Blessing

The power of the people spoke out in Midcoast Maine last week as the traditional Gaelic Blessing above was sung a cappella by volunteers to commemorate the ribbon cutting ceremony that dedicated the newly-built Sussman House at the Pen Bay Healthcare Center Campus in Rockport.

The Sussman House is a testament to what a community can do when people step up, have a dream that becomes a vision through hard work and determination, and then a reality when all things come together.

In this case, Donald Sussman, a businessman and philanthropist from North Haven, pledged $1 million as a donation to Pen Bay Healthcare’s Hospice House to put the capital campaign in a place where construction could begin, and Joanne Billington, chairwoman of Pen Bay Healthcare Foundation, could continue to lead the charge and then last week, announce with pride, what a community can do when it cares.

The house itself is incredible; softness and well thought out articulate spaces where family can gather and end-of-life and hospice can meet in a most peaceful setting and atmosphere. On Saturday, Sept. 13, Pen Bay Community Days will offer tours of this seven-bed facility as part of their day long community gathering.

The culmination of more than 10 years in the making created a moment under the temporary hospitality tent, before the ribbon cutting, for reflection. Joanne spoke to the needs this hospice home would provide; namely the “gift of a dignified end of life for individuals and families”.

This community resource will also provide 10 to 12 well-paying jobs and be a place where end-of-life will occur with as much dignity as possible intact and, most importantly, love as its backdrop. It also becomes a place where temporary care can give a family member some help with the constant care needed sometimes when caring for loved ones during end-of-life times becomes too much to handle.

Joanne acknowledged that this was a team effort; it is bigger than one donor or any volunteer. She asked Ann Bresnahan to stand, as past Foundation President Ann led the charge before Joanne and helped move the original vision of a hospice house onto the Pen Bay Campus.

Other contributors were acknowledged; Camden National Bank, Linda and Diana Bean, and others who named suites, rooms, gardens were among the givers of more than 900 gifts donated to date. Local contractors and companies provided services; George C. Hall & Sons did excavation and site work, Farley and Sons did landscaping, Smith and May built the centerpiece fireplace, Phi Home Designs built benches, Windsor Chairmakers crafted chairs, Rob Dwelley built and donated the harvest table that greets visitors when they enter the kitchen area. Joanne cited Viking Lumber, Rockport Steel and Seacoast Security and all the local energy that went into making the Sussman House feel like a home.

The job of day-to-day operations will get turned over to the staff of Kno-Wal-Lin and Coastal Family Hospice, but this day belonged to the people that made this happen while tomorrow belongs to the future residents and their families that will benefit from the dignity and care that happens when people come together to make things happen.

In a previous Courier Publications news article, it was written that the goal of the Sussman House was to provide hospice care by providing comfort to those in their final days and, with the opening of Maine’s third free-standing hospice house, the option for end-of-life care in Central and Mid-Coat Maine communities will expand to offer an alternative to hospital or long-term facilities in a “tranquil, private atmosphere with the look and feel of a New England Farmhouse."

Remaining project costs needing to be funded include start-up costs for the facility and equipment, furnishing and other deficit costs expected to be incurred before target revenues are achieved, as well as accumulation of a small endowment to help support the facility and its’ patients into the future.

To contribute to the “Better Together Capital Campaign’s Hospice House Project," call 594-6707 or email to giving@penbayhealth.org. To learn more about Pen Bay’s projects, visit facebook.com/penbayhealth.

Clarification of the week

Last week I wrote about parent involvement and that parents are the primary teacher with their children; a philosophy that is at the foundation of the work created and supported by Joe Gauld, founder of the Hyde School in Bath.

To some, my main point was clear as mud; so to clarify, simply said, it is the parents who show the way via their actions, not their words, which go a long way to defining a child. I was not inferring that parents are to blame if a “kid goes bad," rather the parent is the example of how to “live a life” and more often than not, a child will follow that example.

As a child myself, and with my children, there have been many moments that perhaps are not on the “top 10 list of proud." What is important is that those moments become teaching opportunities that will develop character and integrity, and that we keep “shame” and “blame” out of the mix. Also important, is whether it is those moments that define a child, rather than just the child trying to find their way in the world as they develop their own moral and ethical codes.

Onward. Turn the page. Give back and pay it forward!


Reade Brower can be reached at: reade@freepressonline.com.